The result may not have been what the Priory Park crowd would’ve wanted, but they can’t have failed to be impressed with the way Macclesfield Blues set out their stall last weekend. Yes they may have lost narrowly to Coventry, but the performance was without doubt the best of the season so far. That gives Head Coach, Giles Heagerty, confidence. Macclesfield Blues have now shown that they have what it takes to compete at this level: now all that’s required is that they maintain the same levels of competitiveness and tenacity in the coming matches. If they can manage to do that, then Giles remains confident that the results will soon start to follow. Here are Giles’ thoughts on the Coventry game and the weekend’s match down at Blackheath.
What did you make of the performance last Saturday?
“Last weekend’s performance was very encouraging. It’s amazing what happens when you do the things you’ve been practicing and apply that in a game. Certainly we’ve changed some things in defence and I think that told. It’s also amazing what a difference it can make when you get a bit of platform in defence that allows you to attack. The character and determination of the squad has never been in question, but I think the biggest difference was that we just stuck at the task last Saturday in a way I’ve not seen before this season. We really had the bit between our teeth and I find that very encouraging. The only shame was that we weren’t able to capitalise on the 3 clear scoring opportunities we had during the game. If we’d only had converted just one of those opportunities then I think it would’ve been a very different game. Looking at 13-6 is vastly different than looking at a score of 20 points to 6.”
“Whilst we were disappointed to not get at least a losing bonus point from the game, I think people perhaps need to remember that we were playing against a very experienced side. Coventry have been in and around this league for a very long time, and they’ve got some old heads in their side. We probably allowed our intensity to drop for about 8 minutes in the second half, and that’s when Coventry were able to bring that experience to bear. We have to learn the lesson from this experience and remember that in this league you can’t afford to let your concentration levels drop at all. You could perhaps get away with the odd lapse in National 2, but in this league any lapse in concentration will always get punished.”
“I think last Saturday was a seminal moment for many of the players, because they now fully appreciate the importance of making the right decisions at the right time during a game. The message I gave to the players after the game was that rugby isn’t about scoring wonder tries: sometimes you just have to let the pass go. Rugby is a team game, and sometimes you just have to relax and let other players do what they need to do. Don’t force the game: if you play as a team and create the right sort of platform, opportunities will come naturally. That’s the invaluable lesson the players will have learned from that game.”
The Blues looked more solid defensively last weekend, what do you put that down to?
“We’ve been lucky to get prop, Marshall Gadd, on loan from Rotherham and I think that made a huge difference. His contribution on the field was excellent and he did everything we asked him to do. However his contribution off the field has been even more impressive. He’s been working with the front row in training and sharing his experience with players, and I think you saw just how much that paid off on Saturday. I’d like to think I know a fair bit about rugby, but I would never claim to be too knowledgeable about the scrum because it’s a fairy dark place. Marshall has played, and continues to play, a very high standard of ruby and he has a large wealth of knowledge. Fortunately he’s been kind enough to allow us to tap into that knowledge, and you could see how that translated on to the field at the weekend. The front row played with a confidence that we haven’t seen before in National 1, and that intensity and focus allowed us to create a platform for our backs to attack.”
The team will be playing another top 8 side this weekend followed by second place Rosslyn Park, in light of this what sort of message will you be giving to the players in training this week?
“We won’t spend any time thinking about the Rosslyn Park game: our total focus will be on Blackheath. I know I may sound like a broken record, but I really don’t think the message has changed. The message I always give to the players is simple: we turn up and we aim to get better week on week. The focus in training this week will be correcting one or two mistakes I noticed both in the Coventry game and one or two other earlier games. All I’ll say to the players is simply this: make sure you go out and do your jobs for the full 80 minutes. I don’t need to challenge the players to put in a performance. They set their own targets, and I’m sure once we hit those targets consistently then we’ll start to get the results we deserve.”